Shyness and courage, experience and youthful curiosity, old hands and newcomers: All of this comes together in the "Senior- &Juniorpreneurship" (SeJu) project which is expected to attract the state's inventor's out of their garages under the motto "founders meet students". Graduate physicist Dr. Ralf Kauert considers this and says: "An inventor who only shuts himself away behind his own closed doors will not be able to implement his actual idea."
SeJu has already been underway at the Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg since the start of 2011. At its core, the project coordinator Bernd Neutschel explains that students should work on real solutions – instead of artificially created issues. The chairs for information technologies in mechanical engineering and entrepreneurship are involved. "There are so many technicians in Saxony-Anhalt who have strong product ideas but simply do not advance any further", explains Neutschel. It is difficult to advance a technical development as a sideline because there is not enough time to immerse oneself in it. "And even if there are some initiatives which help the foundation of companies: technical support is lacking."
SeJu fills this gap and is the buzz word for the machine construction engineer in order to enthuse about the advantages. "We provide the inventor with a 5 to 8 member technical and business team for six months. In the end, the inventor does not only have an improved product to hand but also a bank-ready business plan, a design portfolio and extensive technical documentation." Students even carry out patent research, which is normally very time consuming and - if one hires a patent lawyer or looks in corresponding databases - is also a very expensive step to ensure that an invention is protected. Equipped with this, says Neutschel, potential founders have the ideal prerequisites to implement their idea in their own business instead of putting it to the back of a drawer. "And indeed here in Saxony-Anhalt. The know-how of the students, combined with the experienced technician from industry, could benefit the state far more effectively with SeJu."
Dr. Ralf Kauert, who came up with an instrument for measuring cruciate ligament damage has come significantly closer to marketing the so-called InersensArthrometer thanks to the help of students: his device is currently being tested at the Brandenburg Clinic and at the Charité in Berlin. An important step in order to comply with the strict medical technology guidelines. Thanks to sensors which are applied over or under the knee, the device can measure precisely how severely the ligaments in the knee have been injured. "This means that the InersensArthrometer supplements the doctor's diagnosis by a testing procedure which quantitatively records the stability of the knee in a dynamic load", explains the 47 year old. To date, a doctor can only make a diagnosis through manual tests or MRT scans. In addition, the device measures the healing success following a cruciate ligament operation or an alternative treatment. Correspondingly, doctors' work can be objectified and recorded for the first time. Therefore, a considerable added value for both health funds and scientific studies.
"The students solved the problem posed by fixing for the measuring device“, continues the 47-year old. "They developed holders which enable the sensors to be attached to the leg in an anti-slip way – a successful combination of design and functionality." He is said to have been pleasantly surprised by the motivation of the teams and the excellent work which resulted in extensive market research and solid figures for the question of financing. "The students accept responsibility", explains project coordinator Neutschel with reference to the diligence of everyone involved. "They realise: I can really help to change something. This no longer is a case of wild brainstorming but concrete results. The project is increasingly becoming their project and a matter of pride." The hours of practical, mandatory work to be carried out quickly expanded to entire days or nights. This has also been observed by Prof. Sándor Vajna from the chair for information technologies in mechanical engineering: "The students are confronted with the enthralling reality instead of getting hung up on the theory." The concept of bringing together the experience of old hands and the up-to-date knowledge of the newcomers ensures a holistic approach. "This type of set-up would have prevented the overturning of the A-class in the elk test", claims Vajna.
The project is supported by the European Social Fund and the Ministry of Science and Economics Saxony-Anhalt. The financing shall continue until January 2013, the follow-up application has already been submitted. With some enhancements. In this way, SeJu should also be expanded to already founded companies which could develop further or even its own products as a result of this support. Bernd Neutschel hopes that this will be accepted, even if he cannot directly measure the success of the project. "High-tech foundations require time. But are already seeing other successes: our own project participants work in regional companies instead of moving to the top dogs because they notice that good ideas also have a future here." Others have been motivated to form their own company, or even, as the best case scenario, to subsequently continue to look after a project which SeJu assisted project as an employee.
Everything went smoothly with Dr. Kauert's anthrometer: the prototypes were able to be built. This last step of building a device which is ready for use is one of the most important results according to Neutschel. "Unfortunately, we do not have a budget for this but we have to optimise SeJu in this direction. However, it is clear for financial backers: it only works if it snaps, bangs and flashes." But hopefully the InersensArthrometer will nonetheless avoid this.
Author: Kathrin Wöhler
Mr Kauert: Ralf.Kauert.firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr Neutschel: email@example.com
Prof. Dr. Sándor Vajna
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Institute for Mechanical Engineering, Chair for Information Technologies in Mechanical Engineering
Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg